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Cleaning up the garden for autumn

In September and early October, work to be done in the garden waned.

The tomato plants had fallen to disease and gravity. The lettuce had bolted. The deformed carrots had been pulled. The chives were wilting in the heat and the drought. The marigolds were more deadheads than blooms. It was the end of the road for the garden.

We'd kept up a steady pace of two hours of work a week in our small plot. But once the tomato plants lost the fight, there really wasn't much to do in the garden but clean up. Given that we'd planned a road trip for mid-October, we put everything on hold until this week.

We pulled out the remaining tomato plant tangled in its cage.  We picked up all the tomatoes we could find in the mulch.  We'll have volunteers next summer without a doubt, but we did what we could to limit that.  We pulled out the old salad greens, but there's signs of self-seeding.  Looks like we may have more arugula.

The chives got heavy haircuts. After washing and cutting, we tossed them into the dehydrator to see if we could make the preservation process a little easier. We added cleaned oregano (two types, Greek and probably Italian). We trimmed up the basil and set it aside for air drying.  We trimmed back the marigolds as an experiment to see if they will grow back.  We have them primarily as companion plants to keep pests off the tomato plants.  But they are cheerful fall colors so it would be nice if they make a come back.

The beans that Karen planted with merry disregard for the season are coming up.

We could have done a lot more: dug up the dirt, turned under the hay we used to mulch with, mixed in finished compost. But we don't really have much compost to add after being away for two weeks.  It's always a dilemma how much to disturb the ground.  It does make it softer and mix the nutrients in better, but it also disturbs the earthworms and other below ground creatures that help make dirt fertile.

We compromised.  Farmer Karen will do some hand-turning and we'll keep the gas-powered tiller in the garage another season.

Next step: Planning for a winter planting cycle.

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